In the past few years I have noticed a growing trend of crosses and flowers and other kinds of memorials being placed where loved ones have died in car accidents. It's almost seems to be a given that there should be a memorial anyplace anybody died.
Honestly, I don't get it. I get Gettysburg. But not the side of the road where there was a car accident. I think I have a right to have an opinion about this. Almost ten years ago, my husband was killed in a car accident at the exit of Interstate Highway 35 onto 18 in Clear Lake, Iowa.
I have to drive north on 35 many times and I always make sure I have enough gas so that I can just pass on by that exit without stopping. I don't want to remember the place where my husband was killed in a horrible accident. There is nothing hallowed or sacred about that ground.
I do understand the need for a place to remember a loved one. My husband's grave is a special place, but I'm not sure it's sacred. I have my daughter's love of a thunderstorm and my son’s hearty laugh to remind me of my husband.
Today I was at my Pastor's Conference and we were test driving a Bible Study from the new Book of Faith Initiative - Opening the Book of Faith - and we were reading the story of the God telling Moses to remove his shoes because he was on "holy ground". And that led to the discussion of what made space sacred or holy. I shared my thoughts on how weird and kind of creepy I thought those roadside memorials were. Another pastor offered the suggestion that people who do that do not have other places that are sacred or holy to them. I thought there might be something to that.
Holy is that which is set apart for a purpose. Moses was set apart on holy ground to free an enslaved people. I think holiness should be about life. I took my kids to see Gettysburg a few years ago and I think that is holy because of the sacrifices made there for the sake of the living.
I think sacred space should be for and about the living and what God is calling us to do for the living. I think too often we turn the church into one of those road side memorials –a shrine to what used to be. But once we do that, it is no longer a holy place. It’s just a memorial to some dead people.